In his farewell to Brooklyn Nets basketball, now-former Nets coach Avery Johnson spoke honestly about his tenure with the Nets organization, acknowledging that the move caught him off guard and that he wanted more time with the roster.
“This is ownership’s decision,” Johnson said in a 17-minute press conference. “This is part of our business. Fair or unfair, it doesn’t matter.
“It’s not easy to always explain,” Johnson continued when asked why. “You’ll have to ask (Nets owner) Mikhail (Prokhorov) what his rationale is. … If somebody else thinks maybe we should be 24-4, that’s their opinion, and if I have to pay the price for that, that’s the way the business is.”
Johnson thanked many members of the organization for the opportunity to work with them, including ownership, management, coaching staff, and player personnel, but seemed to leave with a bitter taste in his mouth.
“Especially under the circumstances that I took this job, knowing that the first two years we were going to get beat up pretty bad. Then I thought the third year, I’ll have the whole third year, and the fourth year, to put together a championship team, but that didn’t happen,” Johnson said.
“If I owned the team, I wouldn’t have gotten fired today.”
Johnson leaves Brooklyn with a 60-116 record in two-plus seasons without a visit to the playoffs, but he contends that that was part of the plan. “I thought when I came here, I was following the vision of what we were trying to do: for two years, we’re going to be a pretty bad team. Then in the third year, we’ll improve our talent, we’ll give it a go, and I’ll at least have that third year and beyond to try to get it right.
“We got off to a pretty good start, and when you’re sitting at .500, and when you’re a .500 team and literally still in the playoffs if the playoffs started today, then you kind of get caught off guard.”
Criticism of Johnson had mounted in recent weeks, as the Nets looked uncomfortable on both ends of the floor. Deron Williams blasted the team’s offensive schemes days ago, noting that he preferred Jerry Sloan’s flex offense that allowed him to flourish in Utah.
After the team’s 11-4 start, the best in franchise history, Johnson won the NBA’s Coach of the Month Award for November, but a 3-10 December skid necessitated a change from ownership.
Johnson did not leave without some sage, perhaps pointed, advice for the next Nets head coach: “I just know when the coach comes in, he’s going to have to be able to do it his way. Hold everybody accountable, coach true to his style. That’s the way it’s going to have to be.”
Worst of all for Johnson? “It’s my wife’s birthday today. I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to tell her. We had a dinner plan.”